I have to remind myself to listen, too

Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash

During my final semester at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, I will be sharing what I’m learning, hearing and understanding by diving deeper into the journalism higher education community. This is one in a series of journal entries for my practicum course.

I was two seconds away from creating a Slack today page for Academic Allies, the service I recently created that pairs journalism educators up to learn from one another.

I like Slack, but it dawned on me – given other conversations I’ve had with members of this community – that not everyone does.

During my quest to understand and serve the journalism higher education community this year, I’ve deployed a few surveys and questionnaires to gauge interest in different topics, platforms, etc. I’ve also posted a lot of questions in the Disruptive Journalism Educators Network and ONA Educators groups on Facebook. And I mean a lot.

(Note: This isn’t the only way to dig deeper into a community, but it works well for higher education professionals because they often communicate and congregate online in Facebook groups, Twitter chats and more.) In an earlier pre-product pitch of sorts, I asked educators whether a Slack channel, email group, podcast or newsletter would add to their lives as educators in a meaningful way.

The winner from that round of surveying was the Slack channel, but I wasn’t sold on creating that just because the majority in a small group said they would like that. I kept exploring other options.

I had recently spoke to an educator who told me about her experience leading up to a conference. She was paired up with another attendee and asked to communicate with this peer prior to the conference. Despite being initially overwhelmed, she said the experience helped to shape a deep and meaningful relationship with this peer.

Having heard that story, I began to envision what a buddy system would look like. I wrote down how this program might serve others and set the idea free in the Facebook groups where educators convene. People we’re excited about it, and that’s how Academic Allies was born. And now, in the next week, I will be matching 19 educators up to learn from one another.

The point here is that there’s always room to listen. We’re so programmed to do what we know or what makes us feel comfortable. That’s what holds journalists back and impacts the work we do.

It’s hard to remember to listen every step of the way. I’m sure I made some decisions along the way based on what I know or how I see the world.

Asking whether the first group of Academic Allies wants to convene in a Facebook group, Slack channel or email list isn’t going to change the world. An inevitably, some will not get the choice they asked for. But the point is remembering to ask. The more we do it, the more we’ll remember to do it next time.

I only launched the survey about an hour ago. Three of the 19 have indicated their preference. Looks like I might be wrong about the Slack channel (at least so far, anyway.)

The Diversity in J-Schools chat is up and running on Slack, but conversation is slow. The reason I’m using Slack for this service is more trial and error. The conversation was being hosted on another chat platform that I was beta testing, but the experience for users – including myself – wasn’t great.

I began to add some talking points to the Diversity in J-Schools chat earlier this week, but no one responded. It is a holiday week and a busy time for educators, in general, as the semester draws to a close.

I will work to continue to listen to how this could better serve community members interested in discussing diversity and inclusivity. I’m ready to get this conversation going and hoping others are ready, too.

If you’re an educator, or are interested in journalism higher education and want to chat, please reach out! You can email me at melissa.dipento@journalism.cuny.edu.